‘Leading alternative’ picked for second hydro transmission line

B.C. Hydro wants to run the new line to West Kelowna from a substation in Merritt.

The three routes considered by B.C. Hydro for a second transmission line to West Kelowna.

B.C. Hydro has zeroed in on what it calls the “leading alternative” as the route for a second transmission line to bring power to West Kelowna.

But of the three alternatives on the table, the chosen one is the one West Kelowna council likes the least.

In a letter to council, Sabrina Locicero, of B.C. Hydro’s community engagement team dealing with the West Kelowna transmission project, says after 18 months of studying the three different routes, the one chosen for more study would see the line run from the Nicola substation in Merritt over the mountains to Westbank.

But earlier this year, when presented with the three routes under consideration, council voiced its concern about running a second line in the same general area as the existing transmission line.

Councillors and Mayor Doug Findlater all said a major forest fire in the area could take out both lines.

The two other routes under consideration included one to the Vernon substation along the west side of Okanagan Lake and another under Okanagan Lake to link into the FortisB.C. power system that serves Kelowna.

Locicero said in her letter the Nicola substation alternative was chosen for three reasons:

It was assessed as more favourable from a overall safety, environmental,socio-economic and cost perspective compared with the Vernon substation alternative.

It poses a low geotechnical risk, which can be reduced by routing and design and it’s unlikely an event such as a landslide would affect both lines at the same time.

With steel poles it would have the second lowest risk of damage from a wildfire. She said there is no record of a wildfire in B.C. being more than 20 kilometres wide and Hydro would build the new line in an area 50 kilometres wide.

She added the Nicola substation was build with redundancy and additional fire protections.

During the next phase of evaluations, Hydro plans to undertake more detailed environmental, socio-economic, archaeological, traditional use and engineering studies.

Locicero added some studies of the route under Okanagan Lake would also be done “in order to confirm our assessments.”

There are no plans to further study the route up the west side of Okanagan Lake to the Vernon substation.

She said Hydro will continue to work with the Westbank First Nation and others and expects to make a final decision next year.